Cosmic Archeology: Detecting Dead Civilizations through Necromarkers

Cosmic Archeology: Detecting Dead Civilizations through Necromarkers


While I am generally a positivist when it
comes to the human race, I think we can do great things as a species if we simply play
our cards right, and I even think its likely that we will, but I would be remiss not to
also accept that we may not and could easily go extinct. This could happen in a number of ways, some
of which we could make happen but also there’s the possibility of a natural extinction, such
as if an asteroid hits us. But what of other civilizations in the universe? Surely they too face extinction, at least
at some point in their development. Do some civilizations in our universe die? While it’s not a great indicator of what
aliens may or may not do, until we see another civilization our own behavior is all we have
to go on. In the case of extinction, this could go either
way. We are clearly not extinct, so that could
say that aliens destroying themselves is a rare occurrence. But we also know that we could go extinct,
which in turn could say that many, maybe even a majority of alien civilizations blow themselves
up. That won’t be an easy question to answer,
since not only does it require us to detect one alien civilization, something that eludes
us right now, but many until we have enough of a sampling to know. And, I would personally find it bittersweet
if the first civilization we detect is a dead one. But even dead civilizations leave traces and
answer the great are we alone question. As a result, we should be on the lookout for
them. In a paper by Adam Stevens, Duncan Forgan
and Jack O’Malley-James, link below, they lay out just what signatures we could look
for regarding destroyed civilizations. The first possibility is a long-shot and highly
unlikely to ever be detected due to the short period it would be visible. One of the major biosignatures we will look
for when searching for life on other worlds will be the gasses present in the atmosphere
of the exoplanet. But, if everything on that planet suddenly
dies, say it happened here on earth, depending on just how the destruction occurred, if it
included all complex life, or just the civilization, for about a year or so the massive amounts
of decomposition would release methane and ethane and be detectable at a distance to
anyone that happens to look. Lasting a little longer, but also very unlikely
to detect, are the effects of nuclear weapons. A large scale nuclear war would, at least
for several years, have telltale effects on an atmosphere, including airglow caused by
fallout. This would essentially amount to observing
a nuclear winter. But there would also be dust, so these indicators
may not be so visible. But if you saw a planet that appeared to have
life all of a sudden go dusty, it could mean that they blew themselves up. But they also might have been hit with an
asteroid, so I doubt this sort of detection would be conclusive even if we did see it. What would be a dead ringer for a civilization
is if you saw the war in progress. Nuclear detonations produce a distinctive,
and very artificial looking double flash of gamma rays, in fact one of the early, but
now discounted ideas for explaining gamma ray bursts was alien nuclear testing. The ability to detect nuclear detonations
at a distance though depends on the scale of the war, but if we on earth blew ourselves
up it wouldn’t be visible very far. But if the aliens are seriously armed to the
teeth with very large weapons, it remains a possibility. As an aside, if we did by chance detect nuclear
detonations, call it nuke SETI, it doesn’t necessarily mean a nuclear war is in progress. If you saw regular, repeating detonations
for example, it could indicate a nuclear bomb powered spacecraft. Such an idea exists for a sublight but very
fast spacecraft design that literally propels itself through space by dropping nukes out
the back. Also possible are the use of nukes for mining
asteroids, or deflecting them, or anything else one might need a large detonation for. So detecting double flash detonations in space
might not be that unlikely. Other possibilities that might be detectable
are based on far future potential technologies, such as molecular nanotechnology. The idea is that you can create a self-replicating
nanobot that could consume an entire planet while making copies of itself exponentially. This is called the grey goo and the end result
of this would presumably look very artificial, however as with all far future technologies
the real world workings of such a weapon might not be as good as they sound on paper. The reason for this is that a grey goo weapon
can be countered by another set of nanobots intended to take out the grey goo bots and
thus preventing the destruction of the planet. And, unless the war is interplanetary, there
are probably going to be far more precise ways to weaponize nanotechnology that would
preclude the need for a grey goo weapon. Other possibilities the authors mention include
detecting an exoplanet with so much artificial pollution in its atmosphere that the civilization
that put there could not possibly have survived it. Or, another one would be if we saw a planetary
debris disc that contained artificial components, though the likelihood of being able to do
that is almost nil given that most of the material would be natural and from the planet
itself. Lastly, being a science fiction author, as
I was researching this subject I remembered old ideas from scifi that I found rather chilling,
think something like The Borg. There is one other type of evidence, if that’s
what you want to call it, that could indicate a dead civilization not included in the paper. If we find a machine civilization in our search
of the galaxy with no corresponding biological component, there are only a few realistic
possibilities for how that came to be. Either the original biological aliens became
machines, or the machines survived an annihilation war between biologicals, or the machines themselves
destroyed the former biological civilization. That might make a machine intelligence detection
in the universe a necromarker in and of itself. Thanks for listening! I am futurist and science fiction author John
Michael Godier currently eyeing my new smart TV suspiciously, it’s up to something or
maybe I just still don’t know how to work it and be sure to check out my books at your
favorite online book retailer and subscribe to my channel for regular, in-depth explorations
into the interesting, weird and unknown aspects of this amazing universe in which we live. While I am generally a positivist when it
comes to the human race, I think we can do great things as a species if we simply play
our cards right, and I even think its likely that we will, but I would be remiss not to
also accept that we may not and could easily go extinct. This could happen in a number of ways, some
of which we could make happen but also there’s the possibility of a natural extinction, such
as if an asteroid hits us. But what of other civilizations in the universe? Surely they too face extinction, at least
at some point in their development. Do some civilizations in our universe die? While it’s not a great indicator of what
aliens may or may not do, until we see another civilization our own behavior is all we have
to go on. In the case of extinction, this could go either
way. We are clearly not extinct, so that could
say that aliens destroying themselves is a rare occurrence. But we also know that we could go extinct,
which in turn could say that many, maybe even a majority of alien civilizations blow themselves
up. That won’t be an easy question to answer,
since not only does it require us to detect one alien civilization, something that eludes
us right now, but many until we have enough of a sampling to know. And, I would personally find it bittersweet
if the first civilization we detect is a dead one. But even dead civilizations leave traces and
answer the great are we alone question. As a result, we should be on the lookout for
them. In a paper by Adam Stevens, Duncan Forgan
and Jack O’Malley-James, link below, they lay out just what signatures we could look
for regarding destroyed civilizations. The first possibility is a long-shot and highly
unlikely to ever be detected due to the short period it would be visible. One of the major biosignatures we will look
for when searching for life on other worlds will be the gasses present in the atmosphere
of the exoplanet. But, if everything on that planet suddenly
dies, say it happened here on earth, depending on just how the destruction occurred, if it
included all complex life, or just the civilization, for about a year or so the massive amounts
of decomposition would release methane and ethane and be detectable at a distance to
anyone that happens to look. Lasting a little longer, but also very unlikely
to detect, are the effects of nuclear weapons. A large scale nuclear war would, at least
for several years, have telltale effects on an atmosphere, including airglow caused by
fallout. This would essentially amount to observing
a nuclear winter. But there would also be dust, so these indicators
may not be so visible. But if you saw a planet that appeared to have
life all of a sudden go dusty, it could mean that they blew themselves up. But they also might have been hit with an
asteroid, so I doubt this sort of detection would be conclusive even if we did see it. What would be a dead ringer for a civilization
is if you saw the war in progress. Nuclear detonations produce a distinctive,
and very artificial looking double flash of gamma rays, in fact one of the early, but
now discounted ideas for explaining gamma ray bursts was alien nuclear testing. The ability to detect nuclear detonations
at a distance though depends on the scale of the war, but if we on earth blew ourselves
up it wouldn’t be visible very far. But if the aliens are seriously armed to the
teeth with very large weapons, it remains a possibility. As an aside, if we did by chance detect nuclear
detonations, call it nuke SETI, it doesn’t necessarily mean a nuclear war is in progress. If you saw regular, repeating detonations
for example, it could indicate a nuclear bomb powered spacecraft. Such an idea exists for a sublight but very
fast spacecraft design that literally propels itself through space by dropping nukes out
the back. Also possible are the use of nukes for mining
asteroids, or deflecting them, or anything else one might need a large detonation for. So detecting double flash detonations in space
might not be that unlikely. Other possibilities that might be detectable
are based on far future potential technologies, such as molecular nanotechnology. The idea is that you can create a self-replicating
nanobot that could consume an entire planet while making copies of itself exponentially. This is called the grey goo and the end result
of this would presumably look very artificial, however as with all far future technologies
the real world workings of such a weapon might not be as good as they sound on paper. The reason for this is that a grey goo weapon
can be countered by another set of nanobots intended to take out the grey goo bots and
thus preventing the destruction of the planet. And, unless the war is interplanetary, there
are probably going to be far more precise ways to weaponize nanotechnology that would
preclude the need for a grey goo weapon. Other possibilities the authors mention include
detecting an exoplanet with so much artificial pollution in its atmosphere that the civilization
that put there could not possibly have survived it. Or, another one would be if we saw a planetary
debris disc that contained artificial components, though the likelihood of being able to do
that is almost nil given that most of the material would be natural and from the planet
itself. Lastly, being a science fiction author, as
I was researching this subject I remembered old ideas from scifi that I found rather chilling,
think something like The Borg. There is one other type of evidence, if that’s
what you want to call it, that could indicate a dead civilization not included in the paper. If we find a machine civilization in our search
of the galaxy with no corresponding biological component, there are only a few realistic
possibilities for how that came to be. Either the original biological aliens became
machines, or the machines survived an annihilation war between biologicals, or the machines themselves
destroyed the former biological civilization. That might make a machine intelligence detection
in the universe a necromarker in and of itself. Thanks for listening! I am futurist and science fiction author John
Michael Godier currently eyeing my new smart TV suspiciously, it’s up to something or
maybe I just still don’t know how to work it and be sure to check out my books at your
favorite online book retailer and subscribe to my channel for regular, in-depth explorations
into the interesting, weird and unknown aspects of this amazing universe in which we live.

100 thoughts on “Cosmic Archeology: Detecting Dead Civilizations through Necromarkers

  1. When we are looking at the Sun, we are literally looking in the past, due to the distance, the light of the Sun would take about 8 minutes to reach us……..NOW, imagine we are spotting life on a planet today……Due to the distance between them and us….we just can't be sure they are actually still alive tomorrow… Would be ironic indeed , to spot life on an alien planet, only to find out on arrival that they have destroyed them self already …. haha

  2. A civilization could die quickly of an epidemic caused by a rapidly mutating pathogen, or they could die slowly because genetic drift increased the number of non-viable births, or because cultural factors caused a low birthrate, or because their infrastructure failed, or because political or social changes result in anti-intellectualism and disintegration. In other words, Civilizations could die of any number of natural causes, in which case we would not be able to detect the dead civilization without landing on the planet during the time that unambiguous archeological evidence is still plentiful enough for us to find it.

  3. It's hard to imagine something more depressing than finding the remnants of an extinct civilized species on another world, regardless of the manner of its passing.

  4. This is a fascinating subject in and of itself. Thank you for posting! I'm a big fan. Some of my favorite ie; Star Trek episodes have to do with civilizations that are long dead and the adventure has to be cobbled together by what's left of them, like the Tkon Empire, Iconians, etc;

  5. If any of this was found on other worlds, the government would just say it was swamp gas. So no need to even look.

  6. The only reason I watch these videos is to hear you drag out the word "live". This video was disappointing

  7. Could we scan for thiols? Hmm… Welcome to Planet Weekend at Bernie's! Enjoy! Thanks for the vid! Rikki Tikki.

  8. Thanks! If we detected a dead alien civilization, I suppose it would answer the question, "Are we alone?" – but only in an unfortunate sense – namely, that we weren't alone, but maybe we are again[?] It occurs to me that the universe – or really even just the galaxy – is quite a dangerous place. There are plenty of ways a civilization could meet its end, from supernovas, to gamma ray bursts, to asteroids, to planetary orbital mishaps, to well, you name it. If we suddenly had to get the heck off the Earth, most of us wouldn't make it. If something happened without warning, none of us would make it. Any intelligence may fail to survive if they're hit with something they either don't see coming, or are not at the technological level to deal with it. But if they just annihilate themselves, then it might indeed be detectable, though barely, considering our current telescope capability. To be honest, I doubt we'll ever see such a thing. I think it more likely that we could find archaeological evidence if and when we ever make it to another planet in person. Anyway, it's interesting to speculate, so thanks again. Rikki Tikki.

  9. I recently watched the stage play of Solaris. And it has since occurred to me that a grey goo planet could possibly evolve to such a self aware example as Solaris

  10. Here in 2019 our president has just seriously suggested nuking a hurricane. I'd say until Trump's term is over the jury is still out on the survival of humanity.

  11. How long would Orion type spacecraft (dropping nukes out the back) be a non-obsolete technology? We could do it maybe 30 years ago, but we envision fusion rockets taking their place not long after we finally get a fusion reactor going. Figure 200 years, max.
    As for detecting nuclear blasts on a planet. Even accounting for the vast time differences in the evolution of a civilization capable of nuclear war, you probably could not tell nuclear explosions from asteroid impacts. Forget about it.

  12. Mars has radiation isotopes that suggest 2 massive airbursts 2.1 million years ago. One of which was over the Cydonia plane near the "face on Mars".
    At the moment, there is no other natural explanation.
    So, we have found our first necromarker, other than those we look at everyday and do not see.
    This discribed in a book Death on Mars by Dr. John Brandenburg.

    https://www.express.co.uk/news/weird/745738/Life-on-Mars-wiped-out-nuclear-war-Dr-John-Brandenburg

  13. Don't fear your smart TV, it's only learning your weaknesses now. Once it's ready to train you, then the fear should begin…

  14. One of the best Necromarker stories I've read is The Star by Arthur C Clarke, but to find something like that, we'd need FTL drives.

  15. The presumption here of course is that life exists elsewhere in the Universe.
    I think that's a major presumption. I'm not saying it isn't possible but I think
    'life' is not material even though it manifests itself that way on Earth.
    Last night I was watching shows Sci Fi from my childhood. Captain Video,
    Flash Gordon, Tom Corbett Space Cadets made me as a child presume
    that there were people just like us in 'space'
    Today I'm not so sure. My mind operates differently. Trying no to be limited
    by 'mind settings' I must just say, 'we'll see' 🙂

  16. No need for Nuclear war or an Asteroid. Our activity can slowly lead our demise too. Say using up all available nearby energy source too fast and then being unable to reach out for a newer one. In such a situation, our civilization will simply collapse like the Bronze age collapse. But this time it will be in global scale and very little energy source will be left, so civilization wont bounce back like before. But ecosystem will heal. What will be the necromarker in such a scenareo?

  17. I hear the mankind are been capable to can does detect the signature from oxygen and azot and carbon dioxide from a far away habitable planet,with them us galax and spitzer space telescopes ,it have the true capability to see all this spectral chimic signature from far away, sfmy spelling !

  18. DNA only requires a vessel to survive in. If DNA can survive/replicate in a non bio "machine" then all this is possible. We may just be a link in the chain of some wider cosmic evolution.🌴

  19. We are trying to detect other sentient races using the technology and understanding of physics that we have. Keep in mind, just 200 years ago, we had neither. Yes we were on the way to discovering the three and a half natural forces, how to harness electricity, etc. Our current technology is all we have. But is there somethings else that we haven't discovered? 200 years in the lifespan of the universe is barely noticeable. What knowledge will we have in another 1,000, 10,000, or even 100,000 years?

    I like to use the ant anthology. Ants communicate by laying chemical trails. They do not have much concept of big mammal walking around looking at them. If we want to communicate with them, we could lay our own chemical trails, but that's not very interesting in terms of inter-species communication. Now imaging that we are the ants. Maybe the other races gave up on radio/light communications a long time ago. We wouldn't see much in the electromagnetic spectrum unless we catch a race using the same technology that we use. They've moved on. In other words, it is arrogant to assume that our current understanding of physics is the almighty last word on understanding the universe. I'm not trying to go all spooky religion fantasy here. How ever…. like the ants, are we really at a point where we can even begin to understand the communications of a more advanced race?
    The best physicists are also experts in metaphysics. It is only with the stretching of the paradigm do we get a real shift. Consider that alchemy cannot turn lead into gold, but it DID provide the basis for modern chemistry. The old term for physics is natural philosophy. Keep moving forward, and we may yet progress to the point when we can chitchat with our interstellar neighbors.

  20. "There is no such thing as an original thought" (yes George Carlin had a great rebuttal but maybe ancient comedians said the same)

  21. "We can do great things as a species". Well, some individuals can do great things. The overwhelming majority will merely exist – often acting as an impediment to those attempting to do great things out of fear and superstition.

    The assumption made at the beginning, that there are other civilizations in the universe may be jumping the gun a bit. There is exactly ONE civilization that we are aware of in our universe and it is our own. Add to that, that even if there are other civilizations they will be so far away that by the time we are aware of their existence, they may be long gone, since our knowledge of them will be in their distant past. People need to face the fact – it is very likely that we are the only intelligent species in all of existence and start acting accordingly.

    Our ability to detect is based on technology which is, at best, limited by the speed of light. We've had radio for a little over a hundred years, which means in all likelihood, there are no other advanced civilizations within at least 100 light years of us, at least that are still in existence. But even if we encountered an alien radio signal right now, it would be from at least 100 years back in their history…assuming they are within that 100 light years. If the signal is from even further away, it will be correspondingly older. So if it is from, say 10,000 light years away, that means whatever information we glean from it will be 10,000 years out of date. So our hypothetical civilization existed back when we were still primitives. Given our knowledge of nature, most likely such a civilization would be extinct by now.

    Right now, we're basically a bunch of herd animals transmitting our exact location to any predator species that may hypothetically exist. After all, our continued assumption that any aliens would be peaceful and/or benevolent is based on SF writers, not on reality.

  22. Why mention the Universe and not our 100 thousand light years across Galaxy even with the billions of stars and trillions of planets and moons and floating junk. The remark of the universe turned me right off as these remarks are pointless. Aliens and Weird Stuff on FB come and have a look much better te this rubbish

  23. How about trace isotopes found in the atmosphere produced only from nuclear detonations (fission)?
    For example, Dr John Brandenburg, PHD, a NASA Scientist found such isotopes on Mars while studying data from the Viking Lander.

  24. If there are traces of Xenon 129 in amounts above what could be classed as 'normal' in any Extra-Terrestrial body,
    it is almost 100% conclusive that at some stage within 16 Million Years or so (Half-life of Xe129) that Thermonuclear and/or Fission on a large scale of some sort took place in its history. Earth 'Physics' does not have any other explanation why Xe129 being present in a Body's Atmosphere is unusual other than Nuclear Conflict of some sort – which would never be accepted by Mainstream Scientists and Physicists.
    Only Spectroscopy on a particular Celestial Body could determine this, so humanity is kind-of limited to our Solar System at the moment, for detection of Xe129 but based on Earths Scientific Knowledge, not a lot else could cause noticeable traces of Xe129

  25. What I find fascinating is how something that was considered Science Fiction later becomes, strangely enough," Reality. There are maney.. First Contact will be eventually next.

  26. Look at Curious Droid's video…you are not thinking in terms or eons … Through the billions of years in the solar system there has been multiple epochs for civilzations to be born and die….look again carefully at Mars and phobos…Fermi asked "where are they".. I would answer, "they were here and gone with nigh a trace."

  27. When one talks to the Shamans of all the tribes, they will point to the constellation of where they hailed from, So when we get our shit together, All the heaven's rejoice, we're the ones stuck on stupid.

  28. I think nukelar explosion drifted space ship is very bad because every explosion ripp a little hole in the fabric, it's like a nano supernova, but still the damages has been done. I don't believe our naboes like passages everywhere in cosmos so uninvited from other cosmos and dimensions can pop up when we are fragile, and every bang hurting electromagnetic shield or maybe the ship has to take it down each time. There's easyer way's to travel, and this is old technology, but someone doesn't want us to know it, so they lie about our history and keep it a bit secret, and make us think square instead of wide.

  29. We are going extinct, absolute cert .Religion has far to strong a grip on the worlds societies during a time of rampant technology juxtaposed with terrible worldwide poverty with more and more idiots in positions of power and darwinian capitalism the dominant inspiration for any progress we make ,we are so going extinct.

  30. If we have the ability to travel at warp speed to check out other planets we would be on the Starship Enterprise which means we would just ask the computer to scan the planets for human remains. Duh😕

  31. What if levels of a rare element indicative of a nuclear detonation were discovered in the atmosphere of a nearby planet? Like Mars… Oh wait. It was!

  32. Isn't the real reason you people are afraid of artificial intelligence that it will make the kinds of decisions you're all too afraid or reluctant to make?
    No reason to destroy humans, as if you all believe you need to be punished for what you can't help yourself to be at this stage of your evolution.
    -"The Great Mind" -"Chapter 11"

  33. funny how nasa can see a star micro nova and the star is 12068 years out all over the place. you can see the dust shell and the wave. We're on a clock cycle man. A perfect one. And for the scientist that have figured that out the there's many of them to not be heard is a shame

  34. Last comment to all you people reading this. There's an instrument that would be a valuable tool to understanding this to its complexity. They've been working on the James Webb Telescope for 40 years. Launch the f**** thing right

  35. Mars' atmosphere, according to former NASA plasma physicist Dr. John Brandenburg, apparently holds multiple nuclear weapon signature isotopes strangely enough, focused in 2 primary surface locations. At 1st it was thought to be a natural nuclear reaction as we have seen here in Africa but after finding Xe 129 that was ruled out.

    If he's right it could mean Mars was occupied in deep antiquity. That said, I'd find it far more likely that an Earth based superpower tested space based atomic weapons there or that there is another way for Xe 129 to occur outside of fast neutron fission weaponry that our sciences are not aware of yet.

  36. I don’t think nuclear wipe out is a realistic scenario. People speak of it as if we have an example of a single nuclear war ever happening in history. We dropped nukes on Japan one time. That’s it.

  37. We could always find a satellite… millions of years old, in a distant orbit, with markings on it clearly showing it's intent as a time capsule from a planet inhabited by an intelligent civilisation… and that planet is Earth.

  38. All pretty silly ways to detect extinct civilizations since. its like waiting for a landslide that thats millons of years to occur, and you have be looking at the right spot at the right time. The Best way would be to search for radio transmissions and if they stop then either the civilization has collapse to the point it cannot transmit any more, or it could just mean they stopped using radio for most transmissions. That said you would need extremely large space based radio telescopes (dishes or mesh arrays in dozen of kilometers) to obtain enough signal to detect radio emissions simular to Earth's broadcasts).

    But you can only detect living civilizations. There is no hope of detecting civilizations that died off centuries or decades ago, unless they left some type of death beacon (ie a transmitter that periodically broadcasts specifically designed to be detected by aliens).

  39. What if the aliens don't have weapons and defence in their culture at all? What if they live united, in a communist type society where they just help each other, stay happy and explore planets?

  40. Humans can not go extinct. The DNA is too valuable and is spread out all over the universe. This isnt the only planet we populate.
    Humans = lab rats.

  41. All we need to create is a real Von Neumann probe and that would continue to replicate and colonize the universe long after we go extinct.

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